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Cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK, according to ONS data

Date:28 JAN 2015
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Journals Manager + Online Editor
According to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK.

The ONS has today released its Household and Families 2014 statistical bulletin, providing annual statistics on the number of families by type, people in families by type and children in families by type. The bulletin also presents statistics for 1996 to 2014 on the number of households by type, household size and people living alone.

According to the data Cohabiting couple families grew by 29.7% between 2004 and 2014 - the fastest growing type of family in the UK.

The bulletin also reveals that there were nearly 3.0 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 84,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2014. Together cohabiting couple families account for 16.4% of all families in the UK.

For opposite sex cohabiting couple families there has been a statistically significant increase from 13% of all families in 2004 to 16% in 2014. Same sex cohabiting couple families as a percentage of all families also increased over the same time period but this was not a statistically significant change (0.4% to 0.5%).

Although there is no such thing as common law marriage in UK law, 51% of respondents to the British Social Attitudes Survey in 2008 thought that unmarried couples who live together for some time probably or definitely had a 'common law marriage' which gives them the same legal rights as married couples, although this is not legally the case. The cohabitation rights bill which addresses the rights of cohabiting couples is in the early stages of passing through parliament.

Speaking of the bulletin, Alison Hawes, a partner in the family and divorce law team at Irwin Mitchell, said:

'The idea of a common law partner whereby people simply living together have the same rights as married couples is currently a myth and it is about time the out of touch cohabitation laws were brought up to date.

Many people in this situation don’t know that they are not well protected in the event of a separation and we have seen examples of people literally being left out in the cold because they have been evicted from a house they have shared with their partner for years.

The latest statistics are further evidence of how the world is changing and people are now living their lives differently to 10, 20 years ago. The cohabitation rights bill has been in the early stages of passing through parliament for some time now but we believe it needs to become more of a priority following May’s general election.

Legislation in this area has not moved with the times and this means couples who live together have very few rights in law in the event of relationship breakdown. The only way for couples to protect themselves and their assets in the event of a split is to prepare a cohabitation agreement or property ownership document with advice from legal specialists from the outset.

It is very similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, and enables both parties to ensure they state clearly how their assets should be divided in the event that their relationship does sadly come to an end.'
Other key findings include:
  • In 2014 there were 18.6 million families in the UK. Of these, 12.5 million were married couple families. This is the most common family type in the UK.
  • In 2014 there were 2.0 million lone parents with dependent children in the UK. Women accounted for 91% of lone parents with dependent children.
  • There were 26.7 million households in the UK in 2014. 28% of these contained only one person.
  • Households containing two or more families were the fastest growing household type in the decade to 2014, increasing by 56% to 313,000 households.
Statistics on same sex married couples, their families and their households are not reported on within this bulletin.

The full statistical bulletin is available to download here.  

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